Diggin’ The Seventies

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
August 1 2011

It has been noted many times that one of the best things ever to happen to the motorcycle industry was the advent of custom-bike builder shows on TV. Although they have run their course, one in particular helped Wayne Burgess – Orange County Choppers. He got so fed up watching the drama of the Walrus and his two sons duking it out that he said to his wife, “I can do that [build a bike].” His wife simply said, “Why don’t you,” and that was all he needed to ditch the OCC drama queens and get wrenching.

Wayne has always been into British bikes and knew very little about American V-Twins. After scouring magazines, websites and Internet forums for information, he figured he was ready to tackle his first build.

He found a rolling chassis on eBay, along with an engine, and proceeded to build his first custom. Keep in mind that Wayne is self-employed and hobby time can be tight at best, but with a bit of horse-trading here and there, his first bike took him just a little over a year to complete.

Addictions can run deep, and Wayne soon realized that once is not enough. He was hooked and started on his second build shortly after he mentioned to his wife that he had found a smoking deal on another rolling chassis. Despite a burgeoning honey-do jar, her response was much like the previous one: “So, why don’t you buy it.” Nice to have an understanding wife.

Owner of Burgess Fence, Wayne is no stranger to custom manufacturing and various forms of welding. With his innate skills and the knowledge gained from his first build, he set out to make a statement.

In his modest gravel-floor shop, he has the basic welding equipment and mechanical tools, but he also stumbled across a 1951 Logan lathe from a local old-timer. Although he doesn’t have any experience using a lathe, a machinist buddy gave him advice on the finer details of turning metal, and Wayne put the advice and the lathe to good use on this bike.

A little confidence from his first build went a long way, and he began the modifications by cutting the frame apart and stretching it four inches at the neck while adding a few more degrees to the rake. The frame originally was designed to hold a skinny rear tire, but that wasn’t what Wayne had in mind, so he added a couple of inches to the frame’s width to accept a 240-section tire, while widening the rear fender accordingly.

Raising the 5-speed transmission up and back three inches not only gave Wayne the look he was after, it also made room for his handmade oil tank and battery box underneath, while allowing enough room for his electrical components to be tucked away above the transmission, under his handcrafted and polished seat pan.

Before Wayne started the build, he knew the look he was going for – long and low, digger-style but with a seventies flare. A hot rod and chopper fan in his younger years, he wanted a rare, girder-style front end and sparse wheels. He searched for a fellow named Scotty, the maker of the seventies classic Invader wheels. Although he is in a wheelchair, he still builds custom wheels, and he produced these Invader wheels according to Wayne’s specs. Wayne’s earliest hot-rod memories were the inspiration behind the Mooneyes foot pedals mounted to Wayne’s first attempt at making forward controls, the SS kicker pedal, Hurst shifter, open header flange, and the simple pinstripes laid down on chunky metal flake paint.

One of the valuable tidbits of information he learned from his first build was that having a single foot control for both brakes – and a foot clutch – could be a little precarious when stopped on a hill (Wayne installed an adjustable proportioning valve so he could adjust brake-fluid pressure to the front and rear calipers). To fix that, Wayne used an EFM auto-clutch so that when stopped, he could leave it in gear without having the clutch pedal depressed.

Wayne had the bike welded and fully mocked up in three months with a total build time of only six months, cutting his start-to-finish time in half over his first bike.

Wayne has his third project on the bench now. The end result, he says, will be considerably different from this bike, but it’ll still be a seventies digger-style bike, powered by a Panhead engine. And the honey-do jar continues to swell.


Owner: Wayne Burgess
Make: Choppper
Builder: Wayne Burgess
Time to Build: 6 months

Year: 1980 Shovelhead
Builder: M.M.I.
Displacement: 80 cu. in.
Cases: Harley-Davidson
Heads: STD Dual Plug
Camshaft: Leineweber
Carburetor: S.U.
Air Cleaner: S.U.
Ignition: Dyna
Exhaust: Wayne Burgess

Builder: RevTech
Type: 5 speed
Clutch: EFM Auto Clutch
Primary Drive: BDL / Wayne Burgess

Year: 2006
Builder: Hush Boys / Wayne Burgess
Type: Rigid
Rake: 47 degrees
Modifications: Stretch 4 inches, rear section widened, tranny plate relocated
Forward Controls: Wayne Burgess

Front End
Year: 70-something
Builder: Durfee
Type: Girder
Painting: Dennis
Chroming: Niagara Plating

Front Size: 21 x 2.15
Builder/Manufacturer: Invader
Tire Make and size: Dunlop
Rear Size: 18 x 8
Builder/Manufacturer: Invader
Tire Make and size: 240 Avon

Gas Tank: Cole Foster
Oil Tank: Wayne Burgess
Rear Fender: Modified by Wayne Burgess
Seat: Wayne Burgess
Handlebars: Wayne Burgess
Headlight: Ultima 4-inch
Rear Brake: Exile Cycles
Front Brake: Seven-inch mini disc / Jay Brake caliper

Extras/Things to add/ People to mention
-All brass work by Wayne Burgess
-Mooneyes and SS kicker by Fabricator Kevin
-Special thanks to Nancy for being patient and understanding
-Big thanks to Baz at Bazcan Industries


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